“Hunger” (A Rain of Rites) is one of the well-structured poems, with an integrated, specific content, quite exceptional in Mahapatra’s canon. On the origin of this poem, Mahapatra says, “The poem is based on a true incident; it could easily have happened to me on the poverty- ridden sands of Gopalpur-on-sea… The landscape of Gopalpur chose me and my poem to face perhaps my inner self, to see my own debasement, to realise my utter helplessness against the stubborn starvation light of my country”.
The scene depicted with a peculiar concentration of relevant details, instead of the usual Mahapatra assemblages of images, comes out as a frozen shot “where the desires of the flesh and of the mind are contrasted to the social costs of their satisfaction” (Bruce King) “The whorehouse in a Calcutta street” (A Rain of Riles) can be read as a companion poem.
1. 1: The flesh was heavy: Note the happy blending of the literal and the metaphorical in this and a number of other expressions which follow.
1. 6: his while bone thrash his eyes: This obviously refers to the flash of the man’s white teeth as he grins sheepishly at his potential customer.
1. 7: my mind thumping in the flesh’s sling: The expression denotes the struggle for control between the mind and the flesh.
1. 9: his body clawed…: images of poverty imply the agony and the predicament of the fisherman, — the hapless father of the daughter waiting to be offered as a victim of sexual hunger.
11. 15-16: a fine mixing: up of metonymic and metaphoric perceptions.
1. 19: The sky fell on me…: the protagonist falls a victim to his own hunger and the father’s “wile” which again is the result of another ‘hunger’.
1. 22: the fish slithering…: the two “hungers” are juxtaposed one interacting with the other and the final image unifies all the strands of the theme and clinches the issue.
Note how, throughout the poem Mahapatra exploits the communicative value of silence. “The young man doesn’t speak, the girl too doesn’t speak, even the fisherman speaks in a matter of fact tone which has the ominousness of silence.” (Ayyappa Paniker)